I was just 13 years old when my parents decided that it might be fun to send me to overnight camp for 4 weeks....and needless to say, I was not a happy girl. I had never been away from home for that long, and the idea of sleeping in a cabin with 9 other girls was enough to make me want to pack up and run away from home. But mom and dad thought it would be a great experience, and a fabulous way to spend the summer.
From the moment I arrived at that camp I cried....(yup, I was THAT kid) and I didn't stop crying until the first letter from my father arrived. I ripped open the envelope hoping to read that my parents missed me so much that they were coming to pick me up. No such luck. Instead I was greeted by page after page of my dad's scribblings about Unicorns living in our backyard and hot air balloon ride adventures that he was enjoying with the monkey that had moved into my bedroom. At first, I didn't get it, and thought that maybe my dad had taken a nose dive right off the deep end.
But the longer I read that letter, the more I realized that no, my dad was not crazy, he was just using his imagination in order to prompt me to use my imagination, and until the day he died, I don't ever think he really knew what sort of gift he had given me with those letters. Each time a new letter showed up I was magically transported to a place away from all of those campers, and though I hadn't noticed it, I was not crying anymore. Before long, the four weeks had passed and my parents finally came to pick me up. I'm pretty sure that those letters (and my amazing counselor Zoe) are the reason I survived that wretched experience. (to this day when anybody even mentions the idea of going camping I have an overwhelming urge to cry)
The amazing thing about those letters is that they didn't stop showing up just because camp was over; each time my dad and I were either separated by miles, or I was having a particularly bad day, those letters magically showed up always filled with the most amazingly fantastic stories.
Today, the memories of those letters always reminds me to step outside of reality and let my mind wander a bit. They remind me to color outside of the lines and live life way outside of the box. But most important, they taught me how to use my imagination, and that is a gift I have carried with me my entire life.
My dad was an unconventional and wonderful man who for better or worse had the unwavering ability to see things a bit differently than the rest of us. He never figured out how to use that magic mind of his to change the world, but for one 13 year old girl with an imagination as far-fetched as her father, well that colorful wisdom continues to be life changing! So daddy wherever you are, I hope there is plenty of chocolate and you have not forgotten to feed the tap-dancing sea horses!